Assessment Planning

Student Learning Outcomes

Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs) are statements that identify, in measurable terms, what specific skills, values, and attitudes students should exhibit.

Consider the type of learning a student experiences when creating your SLOs:

  • AFFECTIVE—How does the student feel? (dispositions, attitudes, opinions)*
  • BEHAVIORAL—What can the student do? (actions, skills)*
  • COGNITIVE—What does the student know? (facts, information, knowledge)*

Include faith integration—outcomes that focus on faith development and the ability to articulate Christian values. All departments are asked to include at least one or two faith integration outcomes.

*See Appendix of the Program Review Handbook (PDF) for additional information related to these questions.

Where do we start?

First you need to collect information that will help inform what your SLOs need to include:

  • Describe your ideal student
    • What are the strengths, skills, and values s/he possesses?
    • What program experiences should s/he have?
    • What achievements do you expect of graduates?
    • What is the profile of your alumni?
  • Collect instructional materials
    • Syllabi and course outlines
    • Course assignments and tests
    • Textbooks
  • Collect informational materials
    • Brochures and catalogue materials
    • Accreditation reports
    • Curriculum committee reports
    • Mission statements
    • Review documents of similar programs at other universities
    • Administer a focus group of “stakeholders” to ask them what they feel they are learning or should be learning.

Adapted from the Ball State University Assessment Workbook (1999) & UMass Amherst OAPA Handbook (2001)

How do I develop a student learning outcome?

Shortcomings can typically be seen by asking two simple questions:

“Can it be measured?”

“Is learning being demonstrated?”

Take a look at the following examples:

  1. Students will be able to understand various diverse populations
    • Learning is demonstrated, but this SLO will be difficult to measure
  2. Students will write lesson plans
    • This can be easily measured, but learning is not necessarily being demonstrated.

We see readily that the learning outcomes above have shortcomings. We can rewrite these to make the learning outcomes measurable and demonstrative of learning:

  1. Students will be able to identify characteristics of various ethnic groups.
  2. Students will be able to design and implement academic lesson plans.

Both SLOs answer the two questions. They are measurable and demonstrate that the student has learned!

Adapted from University of Rhode Island, 2007

TOO general and VERY HARD to measure…

  1. …will appreciate the benefits of exercise.
  2. …will be able to access resources at APU.
  3. …will develop problem-solving skills and conflict resolution.
  4. …will be able to have more confidence in their abilities.

Still general and HARD to measure…

  1. …will value exercise as a stress reduction tool.
  2. …will be able to develop and apply effective problem solving skills that would enable one to adequately navigate through the proper resources within the university.
  3. …will demonstrate ability to resolve personal conflicts and assist others in resolving conflicts.
  4. …will demonstrate critical thinking skills, such as problem solving as it relates to social issues.

Specific and relatively EASY to measure…

  1. …will be able to explain how exercise affects stress.
  2. …will be able to identify the most appropriate resource that is pertinent to their university concerns.
  3. …will be able to assist roommates in resolving conflicts by helping them negotiate agreements.
  4. …will demonstrate the ability to analyze and respond to arguments about racial discrimination.

Adapted from University of Rhode Island, 2007

Avoid SLOs that include vague statements, such as:

  • To know
  • To understand
  • To enjoy
  • To appreciate
  • To grasp the significance of
  • To comprehend
  • To believe

Helpful Resources:

Original Bloom's Taxonomy Action Verbs (PDF)

Revised Blooms Taxonomy Action Verbs (PDF)

Multi-year Assessment Plan

All academic departments are expected to develop a Multi-Year Overall Assessment (PDF) — a written plan that outlines how the department intends to assess all of its stated Student Learning Outcomes over a 5-7-year period between their Program Reviews. The Multi-year Overall Assessment Plan serves as a “catalog” listing all the departmental Student Learning Outcomes, the intended assessment methods (measures), and how often (which academic year) each Student Learning Outcome is assessed. The Multi-year Overall Assessment Plan is constructed once and updated based on assessment feedback (data/evidence).

The Student Learning Outcomes might have many measures, but not every one needs to be measured every year. Some measures might only be used once for each Student Learning Outcome.

The Multi-year Overall Assessment Plan will not only include planning what types of assessment conducted for each Student Learning Outcome, but will also create a 5- or 7-year plan to work toward your Program Review.

Measure Components At-A-Glance

When developing and writing a Multi-year Overall Assessment Plan, the following elements are required for each SLO and program goal:

  • Measure Title
  • Measure Type/Method
  • Measure Level
  • Details/Description
  • Acceptable Target
  • Implementation Plan (timeline of which academic year you intend to measure the SLO)
  • Key/Responsible Personnel
  • Supporting Attachments

Curriculum Maps

Curriculum Mapping allows a department to identify which courses are meeting their student learning outcomes. Each department will identify their courses’ level of practice to each SLO using the following key:

I = Introduced
D = Developed & Practiced
M = Mastered
X = Introduced/Developed
Y = Introduced/Mastered
Z = Developed/Mastered

Annual Assessment Plans

Based on the existing Multi-year Overall Plan, each academic and co-curricular department is expected to develop an Annual Assessment Plan. These functional implementation plans identify who does what, when, and how. Annual Assessment Plans are designed to orchestrate collecting specific evidence (data) on specific outcomes, in specific ways, at specific times. The Multi-year Overall Plan provides the big picture, while the Annual Plan is a specific roadmap to direct the actual assessment activities.

Annual Plans will be created after a program goes through the Program Review process for the subsequent years until the next Program Review. Annual Plans can be changed at anytime, but a tentative plan needs to be created.

NOTE: Some outcomes may require collecting data on a yearly basis, while others fit nicely into a rotating assessment schedule.

Annual Assessment Reports

Findings from the Annual Assessment Plan should be collected throughout the year and described in the Annual Assessment Report. When developing and writing the Annual Report, keep in mind the following guidelines: Each Student Learning Outcome assessed during the past year must contain the following:

  • Summary of Findings—what was learned from the evidence collected.
  • Recommendations—the actions taken or planned based on the assessment evidence.
  • Acceptable Target Achievement—specify whether the acceptable target results defined in the Annual Assessment Plan were met, not met, or exceeded.
  • Ideal Target Achievement—specify whether your program is moving way from, approaching, or exceeding its ideal target.
  • Substantiating Evidence—attach documents here that will help support your findings.

Annual Assessment Reports should be as detailed as possible. This information will be used when going through the Program Review process. The more detail included, the more accurate your Program Review will be. Annual Assessment Reports may also be used for accreditation (WSCUC (formerly WASC) and professional) reports or grants, and to justify requests to the university for additional resources, etc.